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The articles on SocratesVotes are conversation starters, not final words. My aim is to provoke reasoned discussion—not reveal the truth and expect you to swallow it. Given my eclectic nonpartisan ideology, I expect you to disagree with me, probably most of the time. So let’s talk about it! However, this isn’t a prompt to “debate” the issues. What’s the difference between “debate” and “reasoned discussion”?
- Debate: Participants in a debate have their minds made up when they enter the conversation. They’re unwilling to seriously consider the views of others, and take it as their mission to beat their “opponents” into submission—to make the other side accept their view—to “win”. They seldom present genuine reasons to support their views, but instead only offer unsupported opinions, typically shrouded in the language of shallow confidence. In its worst form, you might see this on some political talk show, and in a slightly more civilized way, presidential debates.
- Reasoned Discussion: Persons engaged in reasoned discussion, on the other hand, come to the table with convictions, but are always willing to change their minds if presented good enough reason. Though confident, they humbly realize they could be wrong (perhaps because they’ve been wrong before). They recognize that honest, earnest, open discussion with similarly committed reasoners is the best path to the truth. They accept that sometimes the right thing doesn’t promote their personal interests, and aren’t afraid to admit it. They’re willing and eager to genuinely communicate with their fellow citizens—to lay out their assumptions for all to see, and to examine the assumptions of others critically, but respectfully. The ideal here would be a well-ran philosophy class… one of my own, perhaps
When SocratesVotes first went live, some were intimidated by the tone in the articles. Despite my efforts to practice what I preach, they said that at times I sounded too professorial or scholastic, and they were worried that I, or other contributors, would scoff at their less informed, less articulate comments.
If you share this worry, take a look at the comments posted and decide for yourself. Nobody’s bashing anybody’s personality or intelligence. Nobody’s blinded by partisan allegiance. We’re all just trying to figure this stuff out together. PhD or high school student, professor or factory worker, fundamentalist Christian or atheist, welfare mom or filthy capitalist pig (that’s a joke)—I respect and value the input of all. Use a fake name if you’re timid, but rest assured you’ll always be greeted with respect, despite your views or apparent education.
How can you join us? Click the title of an article you’d like to weigh in on, then scroll down to the bottom. Enter your name (real or made-up), email address (real or made-up) and website (optional). Then type in your comment and hit submit. That’s it! Check back soon and see what others have said in response. Oh, and get yourself a free gravatar here.
And last, thanks for reading and contributing! This site is my nonacademic political outlet—a place to kick around some of the ideas birthed in the ivory tower—see how well I can explain them to a general audience, and see if they truly pass muster. Without your feedback I’d might as well be saving all these ideas to my harddrive. So thanks in advance for taking the time to read and post!